The other day I walked into a fast food restaurant with my family – Taco Bell, to be exact.  We had been to this location before but had only used the drive thru, so this was our first experience dining inside this particular fast food restaurant.

As I approached the counter, I was overwhelmingly surprised by the pristine appearance of the restaurant and the friendly and courteous “hello” that we received from the employee, readily available to take our order.  This really stood out to me, probably because walking into Taco Bell I wasn’t expecting anything more than a teenager slumped behind the counter, acting as if he would rather be doing anything other than working there – as past experiences have given me that expectation.

But my assumptions were wrong. The gentleman taking our order was going above and beyond; he really seemed to love his job and was very engaging!

As our food appeared on the counter, he double checked the order and instructed us to enjoy our meal.  He even came out from behind the counter mid-way through the meal to check on us – again, completely unexpected.

My fiancé and I were both floored by the experience, in a good way!  Before leaving the restaurant, my fiancé made sure to get the name of the gentlemen that provided us the outstanding service. When we arrived back home, he took the time to go to Taco Bell’s corporate website and write our praises of this young man and the neat, clean appearance of the entire restaurant and staff.  Additionally, since leaving the restaurant, we have been telling EVERYONE about our experience and letting them know that they need to try out this Taco Bell.

This experience got me thinking about how important first impressions can be.  I know you always hear, “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” and in this case that phrase rang in the back of my head. Being our first time inside of this restaurant, had our experience been the opposite of what it was, we probably wouldn’t return to the restaurant, we wouldn’t be telling everyone else to try it out and we would not have taken the time to make sure the location and employees were recognized by their corporate headquarters.

The importance of first impressions is a crucial life lesson for everyone, but it has particular relevance for those of  us  working as PR professionals.  When representing a client (or yourself, for that matter) you never know whether an encounter with the press or the public  will be the first of many, or the first and last.

Therefore it’s extremely important for PR representatives to constantly be aware of the image they’re projecting of themselves as well as the client, because first impressions aren’t often fleeting and can last forever.